At breakfast the conversations are mostly about heading home — the dominant themes include possible places in Cuzco to buy this or that for family and friends, anxieties about going back to work, the long trip home, and concern about what “old” lives will feel like. Afterwards, Jerry and I head to our favorite internet cafe. Still no emails from Rick. Though it’s early, I call home to hear Rick’s voice and tell him, “I love you.” It is wonderful to hear him say that he has been counting the days until I am home. Inspired, Jerry calls his partner, whom he wakes to say, “I love you.”
Feeling elated, we hurry back to the hotel for the closing ceremony. Once everyone gathers, sacred space is opened in the lovely two-story indoor courtyard. Taking a seat between doña Bernadina and Jerry, we are invited to share what the trip meant to us.
I am the third to speak. As usual, I have a vague sense of what I want to say, but trust that Spirit will intervene and give me the words. I begin by acknowledging Alberto for his commitment to engaging us in this work, and the Four Winds staff, who organized this amazing expedition. Next, I acknowledge my fellow travelers. “Clearly, I did not make this journey on my energy alone,” I hear myself say, “the energy of our allyu pulled and pushed me up the mountains, as most certainly did Apu Ausangate.” Tears well up in my eyes when I tell them I now know the meaning and power of an allyu. Looking into my eyes, doña Bernadina reaches over and puts her hand on my arm and says, in Quechua, “Don’t be sad, life is to be fully enjoyed.” I return her gaze with a smile that I hope conveys my deep appreciation and feelings of gratitude. Acknowledging each of the Q’ero medicine people, I thank them for holding me in such beautiful sacred space and so generously sharing their knowledge. I conclude by publicly expressing my love and gratitude to Jerry for sharing with me the first part of this magical adventure.
Some sharing is poignant, some humorous. All of it is heartfelt. Even our guides have stories to tell. After all the sharing is done, Alberto announces that don Manuel, a ninety-six year old Q’ero elder and one of his teachers, will be joining us for a special blessing.
First, we receive blessings from each of the Q’ero shamans. There is a discernible shift in their energy today. Is it because this is their last opportunity to plant seeds of our “Becoming”? The first blessing is given by don Mariano. I smile inwardly as he thumps his mesa on top of my head and touches his mesa to my three energy centers and mesa — all the while whispering prayers. Looking into his eyes, unconditional love radiates out to me. Smiling back with eyes, lips and heart, I know I will miss being in his loving presence. Don Humberto’s blessing is accompanied by another thump on top of my head. Energy runs up and down my spine as he blesses my mesa. Smiling broadly, doña Berna blesses me while thumping the crown of my head again and again. Then she does the same to my heart center, belly, and mesa. We hug, rocking back and forth in each other’s arms. Peace and joy, I think to myself. Doña Bernadina is the next to thump my head all the while ringing her small, angelic sounding bell. My soul awakens to the sound, and as if in response she pulls me down towards her so she can blow a prayer into my crown. With another ring of her bell, she leans over my mesa and whispers a prayer. Looking into her eyes, I see eternity – timeless, spaceless and whole. With Francesco’s blessing I receive a medicine stone ( kuya) that he collected on Ausangate while gifting our kuya’s to a place of power (huaca) on the morning of our departure. He is such a sweet, strong and generous being.
In the Andes, there are two medicine paths, one becomes either a pampamesayoq or an altomesayoq. Each of the medicine people we have been traveling with — don Mariano Apasa, don Humberto and doña Bernadina, doña Berna, and Francesco — are pampamesayoq, which means they work primarily through Pachamama, the “feminine” earth energies.
Before giving us his blessings, don Manuel shares through an interpreter, Four Rules of Engagement he has learned on his path to power.
- “Be impersonal. Take no stance and hold no fixed position or role. Surrender to the process of life and free the tentacles of your egos.” If we do, he promises, "the Universe will conspire on our behalf."
- “Hear the voice of stillness by quieting our internal chatter.” With a twinkle in his eye, he says this is especially hard for people coming from the United States.
- “Practice sacred play by being your best and allowing every action to come from the place of innocence.” He tells us that "sacred actions are those that emerge spontaneously when we are present in the moment. Dialogue with everything around you — humans, plants, animals, rocks — everything!”
- The last rule he emphasizes: “Play harder! Reinforce actions that are innocent and from your heart. The more you play, the more connected you are to the divine Spirit within you.”
When it is my turn to receive a blessing from don Manuel, I kneel before him. Looking into each other’s eyes, he smiles and breaks out in laughter. His eyes are playful and bright. The moment passes. Bowing my head, he, too, thumps it with his mesa and then blesses my mesa. Looking up, he smiles and lightly squeezes my shoulders. Kneeling beside him, Alberto gifts me a kernel of corn with instructions to “Go plant this corn and make it grow strong.”
Once the ceremony ends, the noise level rises as we begin the process of saying good-bye. Addresses are exchanged, photographs taken. I search out doña Berna to say a special “thank you.” More hugs. A bandana is returned that I lent one of my “sisters” whose face had become extremely sunburned on Ausangate.
Jerry and I head off for one last quiet lunch together in Cuzco. Enroute, we return to the internet cafe to check email, and stop at an ATM machine so I can get enough soles for two lunches and dinner. Today, thankfully, there is no line. Mission accomplished, we head off to a favorite restaurant for Peruvian pizza and a cup of matte de coca.
Fortified, we begin our afternoon quest for gifts. A confession: I am not a shopper. In fact, I really don’t like to shop, especially shopping-on-demand. We begin by looking for a small furry llama statue for Jerry’s aunt. Success. Next, an alpaca area rug and sweaters for Jerry’s partner and my husband Rick. Jerry successfully negotiates a very good price for a sweater and several loose-fitting pairs of pants at a market.
Still unsuccessful and weary, I search for a boutique where Rick previously bought clothes in Cuzco. Eureka! Galerie Latina has transformed into a crafts and artifacts gallery with a smattering of clothes. Displayed on the walls are excellent reproductions of Chenkay ceramic statuary. I immediately find two Rick will love as well as a shadowbox wall sculpture that will look great in my art/healing studio. The latter depicts a shaman working on a client. The figures are all made of potato paste. I also find a small, sweet sounding brass bell to use like doña Bernadina during healing sessions. What’s more, the gallery will pack and ship the three sculptures to me in the United States!
As the setting sun casts a reddish glow in the sky, I work my way back to a specialty clothes shop on the Plaza de Armas where hours before I saw alpaca sweaters with contemporary designs. It may be because I am tired or that I have been in every high-end clothing store in Cuzco that sells alpaca, but I immediately spot a sweater I know will be perfect for Rick and a golden yellow shawl for my mom. A sales woman also pulls out a soft, beautifully woven baby alpaca scarf in blue-grey from a stack. Perfect for my brother. As the saleswoman wraps my purchases, another, with a small girl on her lap, runs my credit card through the machine. “Denied,” the woman tells me. “What!?!” I practically scream, “There must be some mistake. I just used the credit card at another store and had no problem!” I rummage through my daypack for the receipt from Galerie Latina to back up what I am saying. “Let me try again,” the woman sweetly offers. Again, my credit card is denied. Panicked, because I leave very early in the morning, I ask if they will hold my purchases while I go to an ATM machine for more cash. “Of course,” they reply almost in unison.
It seems hard to believe that just hours ago, I was feeling so peaceful and joyous, and now I am frantically running down the street to an ATM machine. Pulling out my credit card, I insert it in the slot, press the button for “English,” and request the maximum amount of soles. The machine makes whirring sounds as its gears go through their various motions. “Denied” flashes on a digital screen. “Are you kidding?” I hear myself scream aloud at the machine. The realization that I have only about $15 US worth of soles left, which needs to cover my tariff out of Peru, and no useable credit card hits — I am a poor person! Beside myself, I half-run back to the hotel.
I find Jerry and Joy in his room, as we had promised to do some energy work on her. Seeing the panic in my eyes and chaotic energy field surrounding me, all attention turns to working on me. After recounting what has taken place in the last thirty minutes, Jerry says, “No problem, afterwards we’ll stop by the internet cafe and you can call the credit card company, and if necessary use my card to make your purchases.” While grateful for his generous offer, I am still in denial that this is happening. Hugs all around.
Opening sacred space, I put everything out of my mind but my clear intent to assist with Joy’s healing process. Briefly she shares what is going on. Jerry and I scan her luminous energy field, picking up various “threads” of her story and tracking them to both their source and how they live within her. Untangling the threads, we describe what we are “seeing.” I share a personal related story that helps to open more space for Joy’s healing process. Beginning to understand how she has been complicit in allowing her energy to be drained by another, Jerry and I continue energetically working with her until she “sees” other possibilities within the framework of her dis-ease. Session complete, we close sacred space. Joy’s energetic release of laughter fills the room as we hug.
Since it is almost dinnertime, Jerry and I head to the internet cafe to place a call to my credit card company. The toll-free number rings and rings, but no one answers. Frustrated, I try again. Then, again. Feeling desperate and angry, I call home. No answer. I leave a message for Rick explaining my situation, which no doubt sounds frantic. Since the hour is growing late Jerry insists, again, on buying my purchases. “Send me a check when you get home,” he suggests as we leave the internet cafe. Why, I wonder, do I have such resistance to his generosity? What warped sense of independence does my ego possess that is making this more of a drama than is necessary? I know the answer in that instant. In fact, it hits me so suddenly that I stop walking and double over as if punched in the solar plexus.
It is connected to a story that has played out in countless ways, over many lifetimes, and continues to hold me in the grip of fear — abandonment. I have worked to heal this original wounding since before starting my shamanic apprenticeship. And, like all primal wounds it is squirrelly — each time it is activated my ego assumes a defensive stance and becomes inflexible and completely resolute in its need to be self-sufficient no matter the cost or outcome. In my very re-action to a perceived provocation I alone create the probability of abandonment: separation. For the first time, standing on the sidewalk of a narrow street in Cuzco, Peru, I clearly “see” how my ego is using the simple challenge of the credit card denial to act out and reinforce “the story of abandonment” to disempower me. Even Rick’s not being available to answer my phone call is conveniently thrown in by my ego to fuel my “story.”
Stepping back from the situation I tell Jerry, “I love Peru — what would be so bad getting “stuck” here for a few extra days as I get everything sorted out?” Then, I “cut” the luminous thread that connects this energy of abandonment to my heart (munay) energy center, and gratefully agree to let Jerry make my purchases.
We arrive at the clothing store just as the sales women are getting ready to close for the night. Silently I wonder whether they thought I would be back. Taunted by my ego, I hear myself asking the cashier to run my credit card one more time. “Rick could have received my message and been able to resolve the problem,” my ego taunts me as it tries again to undermine my “new” awareness. “OK,” they agree. Jerry laughs and pulls out his credit card as the woman apologetically says, “Denied.” Seconds after running Jerry’s card the sales woman announces, “Accepted!” We all start laughing. Without doubt, laughter is a truly marvelous way to release pent up negative and heavy energy (hucha). Again, I thank Jerry and promise to send a check when I arrive home. “No problem,” he tells me adding, “dinner’s on me.” We laugh.
Wasn’t it me who only hours ago said that I now knew the meaning and power of an allyu? I certainly spoke prematurely. “The Universe,” I tell Jerry as we walk to the restaurant, “is truly perfect in meting out lessons.” Wiracocha and Pachamama gave me my comeuppance to really understand the dynamic bi-directional energy exchange inherent in an allyu. What’s more, these animistic forces set things up so that I would have to finish this piece of personal work before I leave. “Just be sure to cut that thread, again!” Jerry teases.
Our Last Dinner in Cuzco
A block away from the alpaca boutique is a sophisticatedly urbane, two-story restaurant with a wall of glass facing onto the Plaza de Armas. It is here we are to meet our allyu sisters and brothers who are still in Cuzco for a final dinner. Joining us, too, are Francesco and don Martin, a round-faced sorcerer who lives outside town, and our guide Marco. Our party has reserved the entire downstairs, while the upstairs loft is filled with diners seated at small tables for two and four. Ours is a long banquet table, most likely made up of a number of smaller ones.
As menus are passed around, we are told, “Llama is very good — it tastes very much like veal.” I cast a sideways look at Jerry, seated several chairs down the table, who nods approval to go ahead and order whatever I want. When it is my turn, I order cream of asparagus soup, followed by a grilled medallion of llama with vegetables, and agua con gas. The llama is excellent — very rich and flavorful. Several bottles of a delicious red Chilean wine are passed around and toasts are made to the success of the trip, new friends, and an ever-expanding allyu. Afterwards several desserts are ordered and passed around the table — a rich chocolate cake, creme brulee, and several flavors of homemade gelato. Each looks wonderful, but full from dinner only the chocolate cake tempts me.
As dinner checks are handed around, Marco disappears for a few minutes returning with four young musicians who begin to play guitars, drum and pan pipes to Andean tunes and covers to American pop songs. The musical group is aptly called Apu. Soon we are all dancing. Gone is the fatigue that was universally acknowledged during dinner. Gone, too, are thoughts about heading home tomorrow. Now is about dancing. Even Francesco and don Martin dance and seem to be thoroughly enjoying themselves. Q’ero medicine people live the axiom “Life is to be enjoyed!” Above, diners in the loft smile down at us while clapping to the beat of the music. Outside the restaurant a crowd two and three deep stare in through the wall of glass, having been lured by the music. After several dances I feel the 11,000 feet altitude and need to take a break to quench my thirst and peel off a sweater. Looking out towards the street, people are still gathering including don Mariano Apasa and another Q’ero man and woman, who is holding a baby. Walking over, I open the door and invite them to join us. Putting down their mantas, which are large pieces of woven material that hold belongings much like a backpack, the men join in the dancing while the woman squats beside a table to nurse her baby. The man with don Mariano gestures for me to dance with him as a way of showing his appreciation for being invited to join us. Holding hands we spin round and round in one direction, then reverse directions, round and round some more. By the time we stop I am almost ready to faint. Later, when told that the man and woman are two of the street vendors who have followed us from hotel to hotel, I reply simply, “There is no hierarchy, we are all brothers and sisters.”
Later, several of us start dancing in a circle. Soon others join in until everyone is holding hands and twirling as one. While the band takes a brief break, I add back all my layers of clothing and gather up my packages before heading out into the cool night air. On the way back to the hotel, I stop at the internet cafe. This time I am successful reaching Rick. His voice greets me with warmth and love. He and our Boxer “boys” are cuddled up watching a movie. Having received my message earlier, he contacted the credit card company to find out why my card was being denied. Apparently credit card theft is rampant in some foreign countries including Peru. So, without even trying to contact us to verify whether we were traveling in Peru, they put a “hold” on our account, which is to be lifted by morning. Briefly, but with great passion, I recount my shopping saga and end by saying how generous Jerry has been to “financially support” me. A few more exchanges of endearments and we say goodnight.
It is almost midnight when I reach my hotel room. Energized from dancing, my conversation with Rick, and the credit card fiasco, I quickly repack one bag to include the recently acquired gifts, take a relaxing hot shower, and read a few more chapters of my book before turning off the lights. “My last night in Peru,” I think as my eyes close.